Rozner: Bears have nowhere to go but up

It could have been worse. It could have snowed.

Otherwise, good luck thinking of ways it really could have been worse.

The start to the 2014 NFL season in Chicago was what you'd call — to use a technical football term — a “disaster.”

The Bears lost 23-20 in overtime at Soldier Field to a Buffalo team expected to finish last again in its division, perhaps winning a handful of games this season.

And this was supposed to be the easy one, with night road games coming up against the Niners and Jets, before a home match with Green Bay.

Yeah, the Bears were going to have outcomes like this and in precisely this fashion against quality opponents, but against the Bills?

No, not even a consideration.

“This is the National Football League, man. Nothing is given to you,” said 12-year-veteran Charles Tillman. “I think you guys do a disservice to Buffalo when you say the Bears should roll over the Bills. That's the media.”

Guilty as charged.

“There's no such thing in this league,” Tillman said. “You have to respect your opponent. I don't care what their record was last year or how they played last week. In this league, it's a clean slate every week. That's a good team.”

And contrary to what the Bears expect from the headlines this week, they do intend to play out the rest of the schedule.

“No one's down in here. We got 15 more to go,” Tillman said. “It might be hard to believe, but the reaction inside here is nothing like what it's probably like outside. It's just one game.”

No, you can't win the Super Bowl in Week 1 of the regular season and you can't lose it, but the Bears had so many ugly moments Sunday in a game that most fans would have ranked as the 16th-toughest on their 2014 schedule.

“We try not to listen to the noise,” said guard Kyle Long. “We have 53 guys and a coaching staff and we move on. We played our butts off today and as a team we look forward to the next game.”

That game is against the Niners, who took apart the hapless Cowboys on Sunday afternoon and now host a Bears team that not only lost the most winnable game on the schedule but also lost a handful of important players.

Right off the bat, a couple of offensive linemen limped off with ankle injuries, and at one point the Bears were without both Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.

Meanwhile, Martellus Bennett injured his left hand and played much of the game one-handed, though he still managed 8 grabs for 70 yards and a touchdown.

“It wasn't that bad,” said Bennett, who had a difficult time getting dressed. “It's OK. I don't know what happened, but I finished the game. One hand is better than no hands, right?”

See, now that's how you spread optimism. Pay attention here and get down off the ledge.

“Every week's important. But it's a marathon, not a sprint,” Bennett said. “We put up almost 500 yards of offense. Defense made big plays. We just didn't make enough plays. Shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers.”

The Bears' 3 turnovers turned into 13 points for Buffalo, while killing two promising drives.

The worst was the second of Jay Cutler's 2 interceptions, on the Bills' 31 after the Bears had rallied from a 10-point deficit to tie the game in the second half and had driven from their own 6-yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter.

That wasn't supposed to happen anymore, nor was Cutler supposed to behave like a petulant child when out in public, specifically in front of the media.

“You (media) guys are going to be as negative as possible. We understand that. But we have a lot of games left,” Cutler said. “We did a lot of good things, and obviously we made mistakes today. We'll clean it up and keep moving on.”

Asked if he understood why there might be some skepticism, Cutler responded, “Yes and no. No one knows exactly what we're doing out there. I know you (media) guys think you know, but you don't.”

Thing is, the fans want to know as well, and an explanation without the whining goes a long way toward alleviating fear that this season could spiral out of control.

Cutler is correct when he says there were some good things on both sides of the ball, including the defense allowing just 20 points in regulation, which ought to be enough to win with this offense.

But injuries, turnovers, penalties and 193 rushing yards allowed are enough to scare anyone, and while there were seven upsets Sunday — including losses by expected Super Bowl contenders like New Orleans and New England — no one else lost to Buffalo at home as a touchdown favorite.

So it could be easily argued that this was the most devastating defeat of Week 1 in the NFL.

“I always tell my wife not to panic unless I panic,” Bennett said, “and I'm not panicking.”

That will have to be enough to get you through the week.

Unless it snows.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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